I Swear By Mood-Boosting Perfumes—These Are the 14 That Always Cheer Me Up

When it comes to fragrance, I’m a firm believer that the best perfumes are the ones you connect with on a personal level; that give you a boost of confidence, act as a comfort blanket, evoke a fond memory, or put a spring in your step on a dreary grey day. But what's interesting about fragrance is that although on one level it's incredibly subjective, on another, there's an ability to easily categorise certain scents. Most of us are in agreement over whether a perfume is better for nighttime wear rather than day, which fragrances remind us of spring or are best suited to winter, and what scents can boost our mood versus those that calm it.

But what's the science behind the connection between scent and the effect it has upon our mood, our emotions, and our memories? "Scents can have a powerful effect on mood," explains perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek, whose entire brand is built around the concept of functional fragrance. "Our sense of smell is more closely linked to memory than any other sense, so that if an odour triggers a memory it will immediately trigger an emotion linked to that memory." On a scientific level, this translates quite literally into the way that our brain registers a fragrance. "The olfactory bulb is closely linked to the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that governs our emotional and behavioural responses, as well as associative learning and memory," adds Mastenbroek. "Essential oils can also affect certain parts of our brain – they can calm your nervous system and slow heart rate and breathing. They can be stimulating and energising, or soothing and uplifting."


(Image credit: @PEONYLIM)

Because different scents affect different parts of our brain, this is why we can recognise similarities in the way we as individuals perceive specific notes. After all, there's reason why lavender is included in products like sleep sprays and night creams, and why citrus-flavoured body washes are the most popular choice for a morning shower. "Scents that boost mood can include uplifting oils of peppermint, bergamot and geranium, while neroli, ylang ylang and chamomile are among the most calming," explains Mastenbroek. "For stress-busters, look for scents containing patchouli, rose, and sandalwood, while lavender and frankincense are renowned for the sense of balance they can bring."And the list goes on... "Rosemary elevates our concentration and helps reduce stress, clary sage is soothing and can reduce stress too, whilst peppermint oil can help energise and refresh," adds Mastenbroek's son and apprentice perfumer Nic Mastenbroek. "Vanilla notes are also popular in fragrance because of their soothing properties."

Understanding which notes inspire certain feelings and emotions is a great way to choose your perfume. For example, a floral geranium and neroli blend might perk you up in the morning, while a warm sandalwood scent will be perfect for an evening wind-down. 


(Image credit: @THATGRACEGIRL)

Furthermore, on a more personal level our brains continue to establish further connections to certain scents based on the feelings we then experience while wearing them. "Anecdotally we’ve probably all experienced certain feelings being triggered when we’ve smelled something which has reminded us of a loved one, or a certain time of our lives," says Nic Mastenbroek. "This immediate and instinctive reaction to smell can be so powerful that it can knock us for six, for example if a smell reminds us of a lost loved one." It's for this reason that you might come to associate a perfume with a certain place or time. I for one, can't smell Tom Ford's Violet Orchid without being transported back to my post-university "going out-out" days, while Byredo's Bal d'Afrique will forever remind me of a summer I spent in Australia.

When I need to boost my mood however, I do find myself reaching for certain scents, and once I sat down to compile a list of my favourite mood-boosting perfumes I noticed a common theme. Notes like lemon, tomato leaf, oakmoss, and bergamot pop up again and again—all of which are known for being bright, fresh, and invigorating. If you're after a mood-boosting perfume yourself, scroll down—you might just discover a new fave.

The Best Mood-Boosting Perfumes:

1. Sisley Eau de Campagne

2. Byredo Bal d'Afrique

3. Ruth Mastenbroek Zephyr

4. Lancôme Ô de Lancôme

5. Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Bergamotto di Calabria

6. Phlur Tangerine Boy

7. Jo Loves Green Orange & Coriander

8. The Nue Co. Water Therapy

9. Clinique Happy

10. Altra Jasmin XXX

11. Commodity Moss

12. Clarins Eau des Jardins

13. Bon Parfumeur 701

14. D'Orsay Dandy Or Not

Next Up: I Always Get Compliments When I Wear This Trending Perfume

Freelance Beauty Editor

Grace Day is a beauty editor and content creator. She has over 10 years of beauty-industry experience, spanning editorial, retail, and e-commerce, which gives her a unique understanding into how people shop for their beauty routines. While studying for a history degree (specialising in the history of beauty) and working as a beauty adviser in department stores, Grace started writing her own beauty blog in order to share the products she discovered while dealing with acne. After graduating, she moved to Beauty Bay as beauty editor and content manager. Grace is currently a beauty contributor to Who What Wear. She has also written for Hypebae and PopSugar and works as a brand consultant and copywriter.